Peter Drakos lives and breathes outdoor adventure. So when the opportunity rolls around each spring to ride a bike up Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier, he’s one of the first to strap on a helmet.
It’s safe to guess biking up a mountain before the snow plows are parked is not high on the average person’s to-do list. But Drakos is not average. Raised in Missoula, Drakos was working as an environmental protection specialist in Seattle when he was diagnosed with spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2). SCA2 is progressive, and Drakos and his family moved back to Missoula to be nearer family. Here, his love of adaptive sport has grown to fierce proportions. “Once you’re in, you’re in,” he says.
This year’s annual Going-to-the-Sun-Road ride with Dream Adaptive was Drakos’ second shot at riding to the top. (Dream Adaptive is based in Whitefish and provides adaptive recreation adventures year round for people with disabilities.) Because of his tremors, he knew he would not be safe for steering or braking. “I constantly move the bike levers and the steering back and forth,” he explains. The solution was easy: borrow the TerraTrike Rover Tandem from MonTECH*, then find a willing soul to take the driver’s seat.
The free loan of the $3,000 tandem meant Drakos could contribute muscle power but leave the dicey stuff, like steering, to a buddy. That’s where ski instructor Sherene Ricci comes in. Ricci has been an adaptive-sport enthusiast since losing her right leg in her early 20s.
Ricci was concerned she would not be able to contribute equal pedal power during their long uphill ride, but Drakos was thrilled. “Sherene was working with her abilities as an amputee, pedaling, steering, and braking,” he remembers. “It’s not about who is helping more. It’s about doing an adaptive x 2 ride. Both of us are disabled, but together, we did it.”
Ricci and Drakos made it 18 miles total, farther than last year, up to the pull-out eight miles past Avalanche Campground. Severe weather forced a decision to turn back at that point. “All of the riders were incredible to see,” Drakos enthuses. “It’s just so inspiring to be in a place where the disabled are squashing the able-bodied! You mention to people that you rode Going-to-the-Sun and they look at you and say, ‘I couldn’t do that.’”
Drakos is a man who is perpetually optimistic about his possibilities. “I wish I could do what I formerly was able to do, but I don’t let that stop me,” he discloses. “Things are different now, but adaptive sport is liberating.” Bringing us back to that crazy to-do list, which surely includes another uphill ride in Glacier National Park.
*Borrow MonTECH’s TerraTrike Rover Tandem for 30 days at no cost. Reserve through MonTECH’s web site, or call or write for help requesting the trike: (406) 243-5751, firstname.lastname@example.org. Pick-up and drop-off in Missoula only.